The Saint of Kathmandu: And Other Tales of the Sacred in Distant Lands

By Sarah Levine | Go to book overview

[VI]
JUST SITTING
Zen in America

One afternoon when I was browsing in Pilgrim Books, two streets over from Guruma’s nunnery in Kathmandu, I picked up a book about how Buddhism came to America. At the time, I wasn’t all that interested in how Buddhism had come to America, or in how, after it arrived, it had fared; but as I flipped through a chapter on Zen a short passage jumped out at me: “After studying for many years in Japan, Simon Peters received dharma transmission as the first American Zen master. Returning to the United States, he bought a New England farm on which he established a Buddhist community.”

Two years earlier while we were hiking a modest section of the Appalachian Trail, my husband and I had had our enthusiasm dampened by hail and driving rain. Tired of bemoaning our fate as we huddled over the woodstove in our rented cabin, we’d started looking at real estate ads, and before the week was out we’d signed a purchase and sale agreement on a house (which, though it had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three heating systems, was called a camp) on a lake (which, though ten miles long, was called Whiskey Pond) in a town we’d never heard of, in a state we knew little about. A month later I left for Kathmandu and, though my husband went up from time to time, for me our camp remained a fantasy until, back from Nepal, I spent the tail end of a summer there.

While we were drinking coffee on the deck on my first morn-

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